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How to Make Any Icebox Cake in 5 Steps

by • June 24, 2013 86 Comments

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Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: The best summer dessert is also the easiest.

How to Make Icebox Cake

Cookies and cream: you may know it as an ice cream flavor, but the place they shine -- the place they belong -- is in an icebox cake.

At its simplest, an icebox cake is simply cookies and whipped cream, layered, and left to sit and meld together so that the cookies become creamy and the cream becomes cookie-y and you're left with one, singular, so-good-you-can't-stop-talking-about-it dessert.

Icebox cakes come in all shapes and sizes. I go for the classic: Nabisco chocolate wafers, layered with whipped cream, and stacked into a log. You could also build the cake in a circle, or arrange logs next to each other for a more-classic cake shape. You could flavor your whipped cream with peanut butter or coffee or caramel. You could use graham crackers or gingersnaps or thin chocolate chip cookies. When you're making icebox cake, you're in control.

This is the best make-ahead dessert -- since it needs to be made ahead -- and is a saving grace in the dog days of summer. But I make them year-round, because once you start making them, you're hooked. Here's how I make mine.

How To Make Any Icebox Cake in 5 Steps

1. Dump a lot of heavy cream into a bowl, and whip it until it holds a medium-to-stiff peak. If you're measuring, I like to whip 3 cups of cream for each sleeve of cookies. Before whipping, you can fold in flavorings; sometimes, I add a splash of vanilla or a big pinch of confectioner's sugar, but the cream is great as is.

How to Make Icebox Cake

2. Take a cookie, spread a spoonful of whipped cream on top of it, and top it with another cookie. Repeat until you have a little tower. When the tower gets too high, lay it on its side.

How to Make Icebox Cake

3. Build another tower of cookies, lay it on its side, and connect your two cookie-logs. Repeat until the sleeve of wafers is finished, reserving some of your whipped cream. You should have one, big, messy log of cookies and cream.

How to Make Icebox Cake

4. Frost the log with your remaining whipped cream.

How to Make Icebox Cake

5. Cover your cake with foil, and let it rest in the fridge overnight. Before serving, you can garnish it with chocolate shavings or sprinkles -- but I usually just slice it on the bias and dig in.

How to Make Icebox Cake

Still want a recipe? Here are a few for inspiration:

S'mores Pudding Cake
Meyer Lemon Icebox Cake
Spiced Dulce de Leche Banana Icebox Cake 

We're looking for contributors! Email [email protected] and tell us the dish you could make in your sleep, without a recipe.

Photos by James Ransom

Topics: Cake

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Comments (86)

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7 days ago Barb Maxwell

This made me so nostalgic! I am 70 - and this was one of my mom's favorites. Will make this very soon!

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about 1 month ago Caroline Sloat

A favorite from my '50s-'60s childhood that I passed on to my children. Our family name for this dessert, adopted from the Childs family who taught me how to make this tasty treat, is zebra guts.
Just sharing!

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about 1 month ago Khandi 'Choclatstar' Myers

I'm the odd one out, I've never had one but I will soon!

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3 months ago janet.McC

Is the tower necessary? What about putting whipped cream into a pan, then inserting cookies edge-on?

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4 months ago Deedledum

@Mrs K: I don't normally use it for food-related research either, but did in this case as I didn't know where you were, and it was the first that showed the names and fat contents of the product in various countries. If you google "how to make whipped evaporated milk" you'll get scads of results, so it does appear possible (I've never done it) to use it as a lower-fat substitute if that's your thang. I think I first heard of it on an old episode of Good Eats-I think Alton Brown's trustworthy. If you use the American heavy cream (about 35% butterfat apparently, you'll get the results you want.

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4 months ago Deedledum

@Mrs K: Nope, our half-and-half is 10%. These posts led me to seek out the Wiki on cream, and there's a good range between the two countries (and many others-see the link: http://en.wikipedia.org...). I made a mistake earlier about heavy cream-it's really called table cream. I've read there are ways of using that, and even canned evaporated milk. I consider the use when deciding what kind of cream to buy-higher butterfat gives you a sturdier, and longer-lasting whip.

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4 months ago MrsK


As far as I know, evaporated milk won't turn into whipped cream. (Unless I misunderstood your comment.) The only "table cream" I found in the US is what we call in Brazil "creme de leite"; there as here it comes in small cans (smaller than evaporated milk cans) and is produced by Nestlé. Please, don't take me wrong, but I don't like Wikipedia as a source of information, because anyone who's logged on can make changes and adjust things to what they believe to be right. I am no expert in the matter of heavy cream, but where I live in the US it is either heavy cream (that turns into whipped cream when whipped, and we call chantilly in Brazil), or half & half and milk (both can be poured into coffee). I noticed Britain has different denominations for certain things--like trousers there and pants here. Meat cuts always makes my eyes glaze, so different they are. And consider that my (poor) knowledge on these and all matters, comes from Portuguese!!!
:-)

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4 months ago Deedledum

@rhoula1: The difference between the two is the amount of fat. Here in Canada, heavy cream is 18%, and whipping cream is 35%. If you want whipped cream, you need the higher fat product.

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4 months ago MrsK

In the US I buy heavy cream and whip it to get whipped cream. Maybe what we call "heavy cream" here, is half & half in Canada?

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4 months ago rhoula1

it says add heavy cream....but im reading people say whip cream....Whats the difference in heavy cream and whip cream?

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4 months ago MrsK

When you whip heavy cream the final product is whipped cream.

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about 1 month ago Sasha

There is also WHIPPING cream, which as far as I know is the same or similar to heavy cream. In fact they usually call it "Heavy Whipping Cream" around California - and I'm from a dairy town. As the name implies - it is for Whipping into whipped cream or butter. (add salt and beat longer to get butter)

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about 1 month ago MrsK

Yup.

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4 months ago virginia

thanks for the no bake cake,looks yummy and very easy,much appreciated,oxox

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5 months ago Sukie Hatcher

This is the ONE thing my Navy sailor insists upon when he's home on leave. I have added Creme de Menthe or mint extract, or a touch of fruit based liqueurs to the whipped cream for the older set. Putting red and green sugar crystals on top for Christmas is a must in my house.

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6 months ago Tina

I love this! You can never go wrong with any dessert smothered in whipped cream!

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7 months ago Ellie Maziekien

I began assisting my Mom in making of this cake when I Was five years old. My amazing Mom is 88 now, and we still love to make this cake together for special occasions.

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11 months ago MrsK

Kraft Foods web site also uses Oreos and Graham Crakers. I think any of the three choices will be delicious!

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11 months ago Laura415

My Mom would occasionally make this cake and we loved it. It was always frozen and then softened in the fridge during dinner to be ready for desert:) I think if I made this today I would make the cookies myself and add flavors to the cream or even fold in tart drained yogurt, creme fraiche or marscapone cheese-yum.

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12 months ago Ginny

My mother used these chocolate wafers in a yummy desert in the 60's. She crushed the wafers and put half on the bottom of a cake pan. The filling was marshmallows melted in milk and whipped cream and vanilla and the rest of the crushed wafers went on top. I loved it so much! Glad to know Walm, art has the wafers.

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about 1 year ago Tanner

Most Walmart stores carry the Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers. They run around $4 package.

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about 1 year ago Rooby Dooby

I remember these from my childhood in the 40s and 50s. Mom made it with ice cream, tho. Yummy !

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about 1 year ago sophie

I was born on a sticky August day and in my hot hot hometown baking a cake was never an option for my birthday parties. I have had this cake EVERY YEAR for my birthday and would never have anything else. It's incredibly decadent! I always make a raspberry sauce to help cut the richness. I also do a higher cookie to cream ratio because I like the chocolate :) I'm hoping this cake's renewed popularity will make these cookies easier to find! But if you can't find them, smitten kitchen's homemade version is very good (just make sure to use top notch dutch cocoa). Enjoy this very special treat!

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about 1 year ago Michele

Growing up in Boston in the 60's and 70's, an icebox cake was a graham cracker crust. A layer of chocolate pudding. It was put in the freezer until solid, Another layer oF graham crackers and them, a layer of vanilla pudding. It was put back in the freezer until it was solid.

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about 1 year ago Embrosia

I was stunned when the instructions did not include freezing the cake. Delighted to see comment of bellablue01because that's how I remember them: layered in a loaf pan and frozen. Every one I've had anywhere since the fifties. To me - Unfrozen seems Unfinished.